Get access

Establishing a body awareness group for adults with learning disabilities



Accessible Summary

  • We held a group for people with Learning Disabilities who were overweight and unhappy about being so.
  • The group ran for 9 weeks. It lasted 2 h and four adults came to the group.
  • The group talked about how they felt about their bodies, why they ate and why it is sometimes hard to choose healthy food over unhealthy food. It helped people learn to accept their body size and shape.


The Clinical Psychology Service and the Dietetic and Nutrition Service for People with Learning Disabilities in Birmingham shared concerns about the effectiveness of services offered to service users who were overweight. In an effort to gain more understanding of the issues from a service user perspective and to ultimately provide more effective services, a body awareness group was established, structured according to the ‘Health at Every Size’ model. Four adults with learning disabilities attended a total of nine sessions held once a week for a period of 2 h. Topics were presented to the group in the form of group discussions or group activities, which included: personal and social attributions towards body shape and size; self-esteem; physical eating vs. emotional eating; relationship with food (e.g. understanding of choosing junk food over healthier options); negative messages people tell themselves about eating and factors that prevent people from engaging in a healthier lifestyle. This study aims to report the process of designing and facilitating the ‘Body Awareness Group’ and to critically review observations and findings in an effort to gain greater understanding of the role of food in this context.